The Boox Marketing team is one man down this week, as one of our number has been called up for jury service. So we thought it a timely opportunity to look at what’s involved if you are called to attend for jury duty as a contractor.
Any UK citizen can be called for jury service – participants are selected at random from the electoral roll. Once you receive a jury summons form, you have a legal obligation to attend. You are normally required to serve for 10 days but this could potentially be longer depending on the length of a trial. During this time, you may not be able to work, or only work for part of the day. Not only does this mean loss of earnings, but could technically put you in breach of contract. However, let’s take a more detailed look.
Clients and agencies tend to be understanding
Your client and agency will generally accept that your absence for jury service is a statutory obligation and that you will be unable to carry out your services for the duration. However, if your assignment is mission critical or time restricted, or your contract could otherwise be jeopardised, you have reasonable grounds to apply to the court to defer.
Deferring jury service
You can defer jury service by writing to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau. You will need to provide evidence showing why you won’t be available, which may be a letter from your client or agency.
You can also defer jury service if you have booked a holiday, or are scheduled to go into hospital for an operation. However, it is worth bearing in mind that you can only defer once, and you must also provide a list of the dates you will be available for the 12 months after your period of jury service was supposed to start.
Expenses and loss of earnings
When permanent employees are called for jury service, their employer may pay their usual wage as a benefit, however this is not an obligatory provision.
As a contractor or freelancer you can claim back your travel and parking, food and drink and some loss of earnings (although there is a maximum daily amount that starts at £64.95 per day). While this is unlikely to completely cover the shortfall, it will minimise the amount you are out of pocket.
Click here to find out the amounts you can claim from the court.
Check your insurance cover
Some types of insurances cover for loss of earnings should you be summoned for jury service. Our contractor insurance partners at Kingsbridge and PolicyBee both offer this as a benefit of their legal expenses insurance. This type of policy provides for any loss of income and costs incurred during jury service or attending a court or tribunal at the request of an appointed representative.
It may also be a wise move to check your home insurance policy. If it includes legal expenses cover, this may include loss of earnings through jury service and will pay out the difference between what you reclaim from the court and your salary.
What to expect
The process begins with a letter in the post explaining you have been randomly selected to undertake two weeks of jury service. When you are arrive at court on the Monday morning you will be directed towards a large room where you will probably be one of about a hundred other potential jurors waiting to be selected for trial. (Handy tip – courthouses tend to be in city centres where parking can be extortionate. Save yourself some money in the short term by using public transport or park and ride services).
Be prepared for lots of waiting around. The Jury Assembly Area may or may not have wifi, so you might want to bring that book you’ve been meaning to read.
Your name will eventually be called by the clerk and you’ll be led to the courtroom with the other selected jurors. Trials can last anything from a few hours to several weeks.
Comfort breaks are a very real issue when you’re spending several hours a day listening to evidence, so plan ahead. If you need to interrupt proceedings to answer the call of nature, the court will have to be adjourned and no-one wants to be that guy!
After the judge sums up, you will be led to the deliberation room where your group will appoint a foreman and in time reach a collective verdict. You can’t discuss the trial with anyone except other jury members until it is finished. Even after the trial you can only talk about what happened in the courtroom, not the deliberation room.
Above all never post comments about the trial on social media; this is contempt of court and carries a prison sentence.
Your role as a juror
Jury service is one the most important civic duties you can be asked to perform. While it can be inconvenient, particularly if you are a contractor or freelancer, it can be an interesting and positive experience.
Click on the video below which explains more about what you can expect if you are called up for jury duty.
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